Amazon’s Champions of Fire Invitational Takes a Unique and Casual Approach To eSports [Event Feature]

With eSports on the rise, there seems to be more and more events happening than people can keep track of. I'm sure many eSports enthusiasts can name several tournaments and invitationals for MOBA and FPS titles, but what about a competition focused around casual games? Well, Amazon AppStore felt it was time to hold the largest ever eSports event focused on the cutthroat and intense genre of mobile games.

Held in Las Vegas last week, Amazon's Champions of Fire invitational had various online streamers and personalities square off against each other in several games of skills and reflexes. Broadcast live on Twitch, and with the televised version set to debut on CBS Sports Network on December 12, the tournament aimed to have a new approach to eSports focused on personalities and accessibility, with some surprising results.

When you usually think of eSports events, games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, League of Legends, and DOTA 2 come to mind, and that what many of the competitors at this event were certainly used to. However, Amazon wanted to try something different. In a round-robin style tournament, players battled it out in a variety of mobile titles like Disney Crossy Road, Fruit Ninja: Tournament Edition, Pac-Man 256, Bloons TD Battles, and 8 Ball Pool. Not quite the fast paced and high-octane titles you'd see at most other invitationals, so it was definitely something that had to be shown in practice. Several of the players also felt a similar apprehension to the concept at first.

"Initially, I was like 'really?', but after they explained it further and that it was going to be a proper production on a large stage, and that other influencers like myself were going to attend, I felt that this could be really entertaining and interesting," said Max Gonzales, also known as GassyMexican on Twitch. "Even if it is a casual game that not a lot of us have played a whole bunch…I think if you get the right kind of competitors and set it up properly, then it can make for something really interesting. Especially with games like Crossy Road, which I think is one of the most hype games they've got in the competition."

The influencers, which included Boxbox, Professor Broman, Sky Williams, Northernlion, lolRenaynay, Brian Kibler, TangentGaming and many more, were all very receptive to the invitational and were engaged throughout. Even during the show, the talent were simulcasting on their twitch channels for fans, which brought several different communities together during the competition. Every single competitor took the time to thank their fans for the support, which they feel gives them the drive to keep being active in their field.

"It all started as a hobby like way back when, and I was fortunate to start it awhile ago, obviously since so many people are doing it," stated Gonzales. "But I went forward with the motto that 'if you guys keep watching it, I'll keep making content'. And I'm surprised i'm still doing it, it's an amazing job."

Fellow competitor Michael Nolte, AKA CobaltStreak, also shared these feelings, crediting his fans for his success as an online entertainer.

"It's one of the sole motivating forces that has me loving my job everyday. It's basically like growing up with your friends and having an all-nighter playing videogames, and the folks online are there with you experiencing it. It's really great."

Following several eliminations in the back off of the event, things began to pick up considerably. Crossy Road ended up becoming the crowd favorite, as the speed and timing required to come out on top resulted in a lot of close calls. Much of the crowd got amped up when seeing players like BoxBox cut through traffic with ease. Albert Zheng, also known as BoxBox, who's made a name for himself in League of Legends competitions, would go on to win the invitational and the $100,000 grand prize. Shortly after the competition, he spoke about his experiences prepping for the competition.

"Coming into this event, I felt pretty confident I was going to win. I did my research on my opponents and did my research on the games, and I was like ninty-percent sure I was going win," said Zheng rather confidently. "The only issues I had were problems with games with luck in them, and if the luck based factors turned against me I could lose….I was mostly scarred by Hafu and Sky as they were the most talented players. But after this event, I'm just gonna go back to normal streaming. This money won't have too much of an effect on me."

I was fairly skeptical of the event early on. Obviously, eSports tends to focus on the bigger titles that have dedicated and passionate communities, so seeing mobile and casual titles being propped up for tournament play was a bit odd to say the least. With that said, it definitely got exciting towards the end. Once the player pool was slimmed down, and the rounds increased among the surviving players, matches became more intense. I never thought I'd say this, but Crossy Road has an interesting future for tournament play.

Seeing it all come together was pretty exciting. There's certainly potential for something worthwhile should this ever become more of a thing, as the barrier for entry is much lower than for games like League or Dota II. I never thought I'd attend an eSports event focused on mobile titles, yet there I was, having fun and watching an entertaining show.